June 24, 2024

Review: Toadstool Cafe in Super Nintendo World

Toadstool Cafe is the restaurant inside Super Nintendo World, the Mario-themed land at Universal Studios Hollywood. This dining review features food photos from our meals here, a look around the interior of Toad’s House, thoughts on lunch & dinner, whether it’s worth your time & money, and how it compares to other options in USH.

One of the main things to do in Super Nintendo World, Toadstool Cafe is where Chef Toad invites you into his home to indulge in dishes he’s cooked up while watching playful scenery of the Mushroom Kingdom taking place outside via the screen-based window visuals. It’s located between 1-UP Factory Store and the entrance to Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge–directly beneath Bowser’s Castle.

Super Nintendo World is not particularly large, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding Toadstool Cafe. Because of the land’s compact layout, accessing Toadstool Cafe might be challenging. On busier days, it’s likely that you’ll encounter a virtual queue for the restaurant.

Due to the use of the virtual queue, our recommendation would be checking on the status of Toadstool Cafe when you first enter Super Nintendo World. On busier days, you’ll provide your phone number and will receive a text message when it’s your turn to join the physical line for the restaurant.

During one of our visits, we were able to sign up for the Toadstool Cafe virtual queue (after waiting in a ~30 minute line to register for it), then ride Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge once, and then return to Toadstool Cafe to join the regular line. Another time, we were able to simply join the regular line for Toadstool Cafe.

The precise process is likely to vary based on crowd levels and how Universal refines things over time. Super Nintendo World is likely to be very popular, and what you experience a week from now might differ from the procedures when we visited, or a month or year from now. The bottom line is that, if Toadstool Cafe is an essential stop during your visit to Super Nintendo World, you should scope it early in your visit.

Once you do join the standby line, there’s a counter for ordering where you’ll receive a numbered tracking device. Your entire party is then seated by Chef Toad’s hosts while you wait for your food. Shortly thereafter, food is brought to your table using said tracking device.

This protocol is smooth and seamless, and definitely beats waiting at a counter to pick up items. Most crucially, it also eliminates table hoarding, stalking tables waiting for one to open up while your food gets cold, and so forth. Those may seem like minor things or a non-issue, but they absolutely would be issues given the lack of seating in Super Nintendo World and the likelihood that it’ll use a virtual queue for entry on busier days–meaning people won’t want to leave the land once they’re inside it.

As for the interior itself, it’s essentially one giant room without real windows, but with screens that simulate the outdoor world of the Mushroom Kingdom. In a sense, it’s reminiscent of the Ballroom at Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom (with the whole ordering and seating process working similarly to the former counter service lunch there).

Personally, I think the dining room at Toadstool Cafe “works” better than the Ballroom at Be Our Guest Restaurant. The latter gives off “opulent mess hall” vibes, whereas the space is better broken up at Toadstool Cafe with booths and tables. The action occurring “outside” in the Mushroom Kingdom is also much more compelling than the snowfall out the windows at Be Our Guest Restaurant.

In addition to views outside, you also have simulated views into the kitchen–both in the physical line for the restaurant and after being seated. This is a nice touch that adds variety.

Another design element that helps break up the space is the large Warp Pipe in the center of the main dining area. Ceiling details and booth seating flow outward from this, with sections of tables and booths along the walls. In short, it’s well-organized and designed despite being one big room.

Toadstool Cafe’s design is also aided by incredibly substantial furniture. The exaggerated ‘wood’ furniture, archways, and other design flourishes are all quite nice. On top of that, there are plenty of hidden details and nods to Nintendo characters that keep things interesting–even if it’s the screen-scenery that’ll capture your attention.

Another point in Toadstool Cafe’s favor is the use of real silverware and themed plates. Cups and napkins likewise sport Super Nintendo World branding. All nice touches that make the overall experience more upscale than a simple counter service restaurant.

Unfortunately, that all fars apart once the food arrives…

For those who have been following Super Nintendo World coverage since the original incarnation of the land opened at Universal Studios Japan opened, we would strongly encourage you to adjust your expectations.

Both the menu and quality at Toadstool Cafe are very different from those at Kinopio’s Cafe in USJ. While cute touches have been similarly added to dishes, a lot of items are perplexingly absent (no Princess Peach’s Cake?!?!), and the food is simply not of the same caliber.

Let’s start our meal with the Toadstool Cheesy Garlic Knots. These are mini mushroom shaped knots brushed with garlic butter, parmesan cheese, parsley, and a side of marinara sauce.

This should be like shooting fish in a barrel. Garlic knots are a staple of the grocery store frozen food aisle, and so long as you follow the instructions, cooking them for the appropriate amount of time and eating them shortly thereafter, they can only be so bad.

Or so I thought, until trying these. Ours were rock hard–so bad we didn’t even end up finishing them. So bad that we didn’t feel it was worth gambling on them when we returned to Toadstool Cafe for another meal.

Other friends who have dined at Toadstool Cafe have reported better success with these, but that hasn’t been universal–more like 50/50. These garlic knots are still potentially worth ordering as inexpensive filler, but don’t expect anything above frozen food quality knots at best.

For a lighter entree or another starter, we have the Super Star Chicken Salad. This features romaine and cabbage mix, grape tomatoes, and mushrooms tossed in creamy mushroom truffle dressing topped with parmesan Super Star, star croutons, and grilled chicken.

The salad and vegetables are exactly what you’d expect here; it’s a totally serviceable salad from that perspective. We really liked the creamy mushroom truffle dressing, which was savory and delicious. The parmesan Super Star is also a cut detail, and shockingly delicious. Unfortunately, our grilled chicken was rubbery and tough.

Continuing to the sandwiches section of the menu, we have the Mario Burger. This is an all beef patty, bacon, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, and American cheese served on a brioche bun with a side of truffle French fries.

Let’s start with the positive: the crinkle-cut truffle fries were good. Unlike the knots, these are frozen food done well; the truffle seasoning also makes them interesting. Unfortunately, the all-beef patty on the burger tasted like it had been slow-aged under a heat lamp for a day or two, and if you told me the “all” beef was actually a blend of 20% cardboard, I’d believe you. The Clogger Burger at Krusty Burger is far better. We revisited the Mario Burger to see if we were just unlikely; it was no better the second time.

Next up, the Luigi Burger. This consists of grilled chicken, basil pesto, Swiss cheese, green pepper, and spinach served on a brioche bun with a side of truffle fries.

Same issue here with the grilled chicken being a bit on the dry and tough side, but still better than the salad. The flavorful basil pesto sauce and toppings also help mask that, making this a serviceable pick if you want a healthyish option that tastes okayish. We’ve also had this twice, and it was about the same both times. This is one of two items that we’d recommend, almost by default.

Moving on to what I assume is Mario’s favorite dish, we have the Fire Flower Spaghetti & Meatballs. This is spaghetti with mushroom marinara sauce, meatballs, Fire Flower parmesan crisp, shaved parmesan, and chopped parsley.

Out of everything we’ve ordered at Toadstool Cafe, this is the winner so far! The meatballs were juicy and flavorful, the pasta was appropriately prepared, the mushrooms added flavor, and the marinara sauce was surprisingly good. Granted, I ate this after having the knots and the “beef” burger, so the bar was pretty low. Still, I would happily order this again and actually enjoyed it. The Fire Flower Spaghetti & Meatballs is a Top 10 entree in all of Universal Studios Hollywood (the competition is not fiery).

Turning to the kids’ menu, we have the Mario Mini Burger Adventure Set. This includes a cheeseburger, truffle fries, corn on cob, broccoli, and a coin cookie.

The burger here is smaller than the Mario Burger, which some might argue is an advantage. It also includes a smaller version of the fries, plus rubbery corn on the cob and surprisingly good broccoli. So for all of you who are heading to Super Nintendo World on a broccoli quest, this is the option for you!

For dessert, we start with the Princess Peach Cupcake. This is a raspberry filled Funfetti cupcake with buttercream frosting and Princess Peach chocolate crown.

You know those 4-packs of cupcakes made in the grocery store bakery? This is that, but with a Princess Peach crown. On the one hand, grocery store cupcakes can be surprisingly good for what they are, and are a nice guilty pleasure. They’re also quite sizable. On the other hand, they usually cost $5.99 or so for a 4-pack, and this is $9.99 for a single cupcake.

Finally, we have the ? Block Tiramisu. This is tiramisu layered with coffee soaked lady fingers topped with cocoa powder and chocolate power-up​.

The ? Block Tiramisu is a bit tastier and higher quality than the cupcake, but it’s also a lot smaller. There’s no scenario in which this is worth the $9.99 cost to me. I would have been underwhelmed if this only cost $6.99. Speaking of which, that’s the price of the desserts at Three Broomsticks, all of which are better-tasting and larger than this.

Ultimately, Toadstool Cafe is a mixed bag. The food is entirely average, and there’s no compelling menu item that makes this a must-visit restaurant in Universal Studios Hollywood. (The spaghetti is good relative to the rest of the menu, but it’s still nothing special.) However, the cuisine is also not bad enough to make Toadstool Cafe a place to avoid. It’s simply middle-of-the-road, which is about par for the course with the in-park dining at USH.

As a Super Nintendo World experience, Toadstool Cafe is below-average. I’d go as far as to say this is my least favorite part of the Mario-themed land, at least when it comes to the major things to experience. If I only had enough time to do two of the three big draws, I’d pick the Key Challenge minigames and Mario Kart over Toadstool Cafe, and it’d be an easy decision. Heck, I’d opt for another ride on Mario Kart over eating here. That ride is excellent and infinitely repeatable–I’ve done it several times and still can’t get enough.

However, the practical reality is that riding Mario Kart is not a suitable substitute for eating a meal of food. No one is out there saying, “Gee, I’m hungry–should I ride Mario Kart or eat?” (Although I can’t be the only video game addict who has skipped a meal to keep playing!)

So the operative question is really whether you should dine at Toadstool Cafe or somewhere else in Universal Studios Hollywood? That really depends upon your fandom allegiances. In my view, Three Broomsticks in Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the park’s best restaurant (by a wide margin), followed by the various Simpsons options in Springfield (my favorite is Cletus’ Chicken Shack, but there are strong menu items at all of these dining spots), followed by Toadstool Cafe in Super Nintendo World. Just like in Mario Kart, the competition for third place is not exactly fierce.

If you’re a diehard Nintendo fan and a completionist, you should absolutely dine in Toadstool Cafe. But you probably didn’t need this review to tell you that. There are fun foods, well-done details, and the screen-based scenery is amusing to watch. With that said, it’s a bit on the underwhelming side as compared to the rest of Super Nintendo World, and you shouldn’t feel badly about prioritizing everything else and potentially skipping this if you run out of time or the wait time is too long. Toadstool Cafe is cute and worth experiencing if time allows, but it’s not game over if you have to miss out on it.

If you’re preparing for a Southern California vacation, check out our other planning posts, including our exhaustive Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood. Need advice for LA? Read our Ultimate Los Angeles, California Planning Guide. Visiting other SoCal theme parks? Consult our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide and Knott’s Berry Farm Planning Guide.

YOUR THOUGHTS

Are you looking forward to eating in Super Nintendo World? Have you dined at Toadstool Cafe? What was your favorite or least favorite menu item? How does this restaurant rank as compared to the alternatives at Universal Studios Hollywood? What about relative to other things to see and do in Super Nintendo World? Do you agree or disagree with our review of Toadstool Cafe? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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